Bruce McDonald, BSS, Stuart Berman (co-writer)
Sure—“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But what if it is broke, and works better that way?
This past Friday I was lucky enough to sit in at a tiny TriBeCa screening for the world premier of This Movie Is Broken, the new indie rock romance by writer/director Bruce McDonald. Centered on a friendship-come-sex romance between two cross-Atlantic childhood pals, the film revolves itself entirely around a free concert given in Toronto last July, by hometown heroes Broken Social Scene. It is difficult to categorize anything about this movie. Equal part raw concert footage, equal part torn love-story, McDonald’s film is a perfect blend of music and plot, documentary and fiction, inventing a new way to present music on film. Taking from another member of the audience, whom I overheard speaking to Bruce after the showing, “That was fabulous. It was like Once meets Gimme Shelter,” said Jeff Breithaupt. “What a perfect description,” I thought. “I’m going to have to steal that.”
I have seen my fare share of Rock ‘n Roll films. Actually, let me reiterate—I own my fare share of Rock ‘n Roll films. They are all good, but they are also all equally predictable. The said formula to a Rock DVD is as follows: Music—Title Cards—Interview—Concert—Interview—Behind The Scenes Debauchery—Music—Credits. In This Movie Is Broken, McDonald breaks new ground in films that are not necessarily about music, but still use music as a major function of the story. On the one hand, This Movie Is Broken is not about music at all, (plot-relatively speaking, that is) and yet on the other hand, it is about nothing but music.
As far as the story goes, actors Greg Calderone (Bruno) and Georgina Reilly (Caroline) do a superb job of capturing the realism of a ‘Gen Ten’ globalized relationship. Despite the ocean-deep lifelong crush Bruno has had for Caroline, the night is just a matter-of-fact deal. And instead of punishing themselves for it, the two twenty-somethings indulge in 21st century blithe liberalism: “We’re friends. We fucked. I’m leaving for Paris in the morning. So what? Let’s go check out this concert.” It is also worth mentioning a superb job by supporting actor Kerr Hewitt as Blake, Bruno’s best friend (amongst other things, but I don’t want to go spoiling a very interesting plot-twist near the end).
Broken Social Scene
There is no question though, that the core and soul of the film is found in the onstage performance of Toronto’s Indie Royal Family. Kevin Drew’s efforts to gather all BSS members, last minute, and put on a free concert at the Harbourfront for the city of Toronto and all of their loyal Toronto fans does not go ignored. In the midst of one of the worst municipal strikes in the city’s history (the now infamous “Garbage Strike” where the city went 39 days without any garbage collection whatsoever) the full cast of Broken Social Scene musicians participated in the first concert of its kind since 2004 (included were Feist, Amy Milan, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Jason Collett, Emily Haines, and Lisa Lobsinger to name a few key acts in the film). The energy is pure and raw, and it all comes through the screen, and more importantly—the speakers, during the extended concert footage that repeats itself as McDonald’s cinematic motif.
Following the screening, filmmaker Bruce McDonald was asked: “Were you concerned about the localism in this film? Was there ever thought as to how it may be received by other cities or other countries? Or was the attitude—“Fuck it! This is a movie for Toronto, by Toronto, about Toronto.”
This is what he said (NB: I am paraphrasing): No, it’s not a movie about Toronto. It’s a movie about music, and music is universal. Every city across the world has their own Broken Social Scene. Sure, you can be behind this band and this city, but there are so many nuances captured on camera that will appeal to musicians and music fans all over the world that it doesn’t have to be a film about Toronto. Yeah, everything in here is real. There really was a garbage strike that weekend, and there really was a Formula-1 Race going on, but the music extends beyond the locale. It’s a film about the pursuit of pleasure that can happen in one night, and then not being punished for it the next day.
The music is beyond. The cinematography is superb. The editing is fantastic.
This movie may be broken, but whatever you do, don’t fix it; it’s perfect just the way it is.
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– Kory French